From legendary director Steven Spielberg comes the epic adventure War Horse, a tale of improbable loyalty, hope, and tenacity. Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway play, and set against the sweeping canvas of World War I, this deeply heartfelt story begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and his young trainer Albert. When they’re forced apart by war, we follow Joey’s ordinary journey as he changes and inspires the lives of everyone he meets. Filled with spectacularly rich visuals — and complete with never-before-seen bonus features — War Horse is a “Genuine movie masterpiece,” (Rex Reed, The New York Observer) and one of the crucial powerful and moving stories of friendship ever told.
The sheer physical great thing about the horse and the magnificent landscape of rural Devon, England, makes the first section of War Horse a feast for the eyes, as stalwart young lad Albert (Jeremy Irvine, in his film debut) struggles to channel the high-strung energy of newly bought horse Joey into plowing a rocky field. A destructive rainstorm forces Albert’s father (Peter Mullan, Boy A) to sell Joey to an army captain (Tom Hiddleston, Thor) who takes the horse into the battlefields of World War I. From there, turns of fortune lead Joey into the hands of a German private, a French girl and her grandfather, and then into the cratered no man’s land between the warring armies. War Horse is jarringly uneven. Some moments are over-the-top whilst others are elegantly understated; the tone ranges from the broad comedy of a mid-1970s Disney live-action flick to the raw majesty of a John Ford western. The episodic storytelling doesn’t help–the characters should not have time to fully establish themselves in the audience’s hearts, in spite of some excellent performances. The greatest weakness is that director Steven Spielberg doesn’t connect us to Joey himself; though it’s inconceivable not to have moments of empathy with the trials of this beautiful animal, at other times the horse is not more than a narrative device, carrying us from one micro-story to another. Still, some episodes are unquestionably compelling (a sequence in which a British and a German soldier collaborate to rescue Joey is particularly good) and, though stylistically in every single place, War Horse is never less than visually stunning. —Bret Fetzer